Bears

The 'major point' Eddie Goldman and the Bears are making on defense this year

The 'major point' Eddie Goldman and the Bears are making on defense this year

The Bears’ last four first round draft picks combined to play a total of 24 games last season, and first-round pick Leonard Floyd had half that number alone.

The top three selections in Ryan Pace’s first draft class in 2015 have played in just 33 of a possible 48 games, Eddie Goldman leads the way with 21 of those.

As far as 2017 is concerned, Pace’s offseason moves focused more on roster depth than big splashes that could be written in ink on the depth chart. Based on what his team has experienced injury-wise in his two years at the helm (as those supposed building blocks have mostly been blocking the door to the trainer’s room), it shows the general manager is still counting on them to finally put a full, or at least most of a full, season together.  

This week’s mandatory minicamp Tuesday through Thursday at Halas Hall is the final barrier some of these kids must get through before reporting to training camp six weeks from now. While we wait to see how many of those projected core players take part this week, especially all three days, Goldman is also tired of waiting for health, and beyond that, growth. 

He says he’s fully recovered from the high ankle sprain that limited him to just six games in his sophomore campaign, spending some of the early portion of the offseason continuing rehab at a facility in San Diego. But he still managed 2.5 sacks in that limited time a year ago, and has seven for his career, which is a pretty impressive number for any nose tackle who excels at occupying opposing linemen to clog running lanes. And he’s well aware of how it takes a defensive village to improve on an embarrassing total of just 28 takeaways the last two seasons, including an NFL record 11 last year.

“We’re putting emphasis on the takeaways,” Goldman said after last Tuesday’s OTA in which that side of the ball gets vocal when they forced one in seven-on-seven drills. “When we get them, we’re rallying to the ball helping the way to get to the end zone. It’s one of the major points that Vic (Fangio) is making in the classroom.”

It would be unwise to think that defensive coordinator Fangio’s unit will suddenly morph into Lovie Smith-style production. But Goldman says the problem’s being addressed with regularity, and just like all Bears fans, he’s getting impatient for the never-ending injury bug to run its course. That’s especially true up front as a revamped secondary learns to work together. That also means having all the pass rush components in place as Floyd, Pernell McPhee, Willie Young, Lamarr Houston (and eventually, Danny Trevathan) work their way back from various injuries and surgeries.

“The front seven on any team is always the core," he said. "I feel like we’re meshing, we’re coming together, playing good, and there’s an urgency.”

And as Young recently shared, the defense (which still flirted with top 10 status much of last season before a miserable final three games) wants to take the reins, and take over the team’s identity, as several new offensive components learn to mesh.

“If we do our job," he said, "the offense can do its job more effectively.”

A full season from a healthy Goldman is, quite literally, front and center toward doing that.

Kyle Long talks Bears offensive struggles on NFL Total Access

Kyle Long talks Bears offensive struggles on NFL Total Access

Recent NFL retiree and social media enthusiast Kyle Long recently appeared on NFL Total Access and spoke about the Bears’ recent offensive struggles.

Long emphasizes the blame for the 2019 season shouldn’t entirely rest on Trubisky’s shoulders, but entire offensive line. Long’s not just trying to let Trubisky off the hook here, football is a team sport after all, and if you look at the Bears’ offensive report card for this past season, you’ll see that the problem is not just under center. Some of the weight of the lack of OL production falls on Long himself, who continued to be plagued by injuries before retirement and needing to be replaced by Rashad Coward. Long brings this up himself in the interview, stating “I hold myself responsible as somebody who wasn’t able to stay healthy.”

Besides Long, Bobby Massie earned the lowest Pro Football Focus grade of his career (63.2), while Charles Leno, Jr. earned his second-worst (58.6) at tackle.

So, while it’s easy to point fingers at Trubisky and make him a scapegoat, the reality of the situation is that the Bears’ 2019 offensive struggles weren’t born in a vacuum, and there is a lot of room for improvement before the 2020 season begins.

You can read Long’s full quote below:

If the Bears can’t run the ball, they’re not able to pass the ball, and that holds true for any team in the league. You take the pressure off the quarterback with the run game and you keep the opposing offenses off the field.

When Mitch was drafted, he came into a team with a power back that was an All-Pro and you had two pro bowl guards and you had a litany of people around him on the outside and the coaching staff that made his job relatively easy. Granted he was a young player, he had tremendous success, so the expectations were high. Coming into the 2nd year, there was a change in scheme, now you’re looking at a different offensive coordinator in his 2nd year as a starter. With (Mark) Helfrich and the run game and injuries up front, it made it really difficult for Mitch to be able to settle in and have that comfort level to be able to fire the ball where he wants to, when he wants to.

You can watch the whole interview here.  

 

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This safety could be a perfect fit for Bears to replace Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

This safety could be a perfect fit for Bears to replace Ha Ha Clinton-Dix

The Bears have a big decision to make at safety this offseason, even after signing Eddie Jackson to the position's richest contract extension in NFL history.

Jackson's running-mate, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, is scheduled to hit unrestricted free agency in March and there's been no indication that the Bears plan to re-sign him before he has the chance to test the open market. He'll have plenty of suitors for his services, including an NFC North rival, according to NFL.com.

DETROIT LIONS: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, safety

This might seem like a bit of a reach for the Lions, but Detroit could use a splash signing in the secondary and has the cap space (projected $46 million) to get it done. Clinton-Dix has plenty of experience in the NFC North, having played for Green Bay and Chicago, and he stands alongside (Vonn) Bell as one of the best strong safety options on the open market. This only happens if the Lions don't retain Tavon Wilson, who played well in Detroit but is headed toward a pay raise this offseason.

If Clinton-Dix signs with the Lions, it would mark the second-straight offseason that the Bears would lose a starting safety to an NFC North rival. Adrian Amos signed with the Packers in 2019.

It would also make it two years in a row that Pace will have to find a starter at a critical defensive position. Fortunately for Chicago, there will be a few options who not only are worthy of a starting gig but who may, in fact, be an upgrade over Clinton-Dix.

CHICAGO BEARS: Vonn Bell, safety

The Bears have very little cap room to work with, and it's unlikely they'll be able to do much of anything at their current position. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is in search of a big payday in free agency, meaning Chicago will need to address the position in some form. Without cutting someone to create space, this isn't likely to happen, but Bell might sign at a lower number, at least.

Bell was the NFL's top run-defending safety in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus, which is the kind of profile the Bears could be looking for to complement Jackson's playmaking ability in the passing game. He'd be a closer match to Amos, whose physical style of play allowed Jackson to focus on creating turnovers and splash plays.

Much of Pace's decision will come down to the cost of each player. It's highly unlikely the Bears will pay two safeties at the top of the position's market value, which makes a player like Bell a more likely target because of his expected mid-level salary. 

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